Monday, November 30, 2009

Your (US) Tax Dollars At Work

This is a quote from a letter from Amare Mammo, a former official with the Ethiopian Agricultural and Food Organization, to Dr. Seid Hassan of Murray State University. For most Ethiopians, myself included, the content of the letter may not come as a surprise, but only very few of us can actually substantiate allegations of government corruption and voter intimidation with such detail and first hand witness account. Thanks to Mr. Amare for the eye-opening letter and to Dr. Seid for sharing with the rest of us. Hello US State Department!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Rejuvenated UDJ?

The news of Negasso Gidada and Seye Ahraha, former high officials of the Woyane regime, joining the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party a few days ago was pleasantly surprising. It was surprising because it came on the heels of a UDJ internal turmoil and the mysterious departure of Yacob Hailemariam from his UDJ leadership position. It is a pleasant news because these two gentlmen are seasoned politicians who have the potential to add a significant number of supporters to the fledgling UDJ from key constituencies.

However, with all the disappointments Ethiopians have had to go through with the recent Kinijit debacle, not to mention many of the other false starts, it would be prudent to take a wait-and-see attitude regarding this news. We will all find out before too long whether or not the Negasso-Seye move can rejuvenate the UDJ, perhaps in a matter of weeks. If the energy I witnessed among the participants of the vigil for Birtukan at the White House earlier tonight can be taken as an indication of the UDJ's future, then we may be in for more pleasant surprises in the near future. In any case, the UDJ is lucky to have these two gentlemen on its side, and good luck to all of them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Milton Friedman

Interview with Richard Heffner on The Open Mind (December 1975)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nominate Birtukan

Milton Friedman was probably the most influential economist of the 20th century. But he will most likely be remembered in history as one of the greatest champions of freedom and limited government. Birtukan deserves the 2010 Milton Friedman Prize. Please nominate her here. Please also send the post card prepared by Amnesty International to the European Commissioner for Humanitarian and Development Aid. Thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wycoff this!

I just read a news item that said the US is concerned about the restriction on Ethiopian opposition groups ahead of elections in May of 2010. The AFP quotes Karl Wycoff, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East African Affairs, as saying:
The US is concerned by what we see as reduction in political space and the ability of opposition parties to operate and do what opposition parties should do.
Hallelujah! I guess the US gets it, eh! The Obama Administration seems to be worried that the Ethiopian regime is closing down the political space. But, in all seriousness, isn't this the same administration that gave its stamp of approval for a Zenawi-$hawel deal just three weeks ago while knowing fully well that the Ethiopian regime is not remotely interested in openning up the political space? Who are they trying to fool?

If such a concern had been voiced publicly when foreign minster Seyoum Mesfin
visited with Hillary Clinton at the State Department a couple of weeks ago, a case could have been made that the US is serious about its concern. But it was not, and that was done deliberately. Instead, that burden was was left to Karl Wycoff, a mid-level official whose main expertise is counter-terrorism.

It is quite evident that the reason
Karl Wycoff was sent to Addis has nothing to do with pressuring the Ethiopian regime into openning up the political space but, rather, it had everything to do with the situation in Somalia and punishing the Eritrean regime for its cynical support of Somali Islamists.

Enough with such nonsense! It is now apparent that there isn't a dime's worth of difference in US foreign policy towards Ethiopia between this administration and its predecessor. Shame on me for believing that a change of political party in Washington could be a harbinger of better days for Ethiopia.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Dominance of Shoa

Excerpt from "Rebels and Separatists Ethiopia: Regional Resistance to a Marxist Regime" by Paul Henze (December 1985).

Ethnicity had almost nothing to do with the emergence of Shoa as the core of the revitalized Ethiopian state at the end of the nineteenth century. Shoa played as important a role in modern Ethiopian evolution as Prussia did in the development of modern Germany. There are interesting parallels. Shoa was for much of its early history a frontier region, as Prussia was. Its people were a mixture of several ethnic strains, as Prussians were.

The challenge of dealing with frontier problems stimulated in Shoa the emergence of strong leadership and the development of efficient administration and military forces. Among a mixed population, concern with ethnic exclusiveness brought no advantage to those competing for leadership. Attitudes prevailing in Shoa created a favorable climate for the intensified and successful effort Haile Selassie made to overcome regionalism and build the governmental framework of a modern state.

To characterize Haile Selassie's Ethiopia as Amhara dominance, as many Western journalists and exile separatists have done, is to apply facile preconceptions rather than to analyze how the system worked. In the pre-Shoan era, the core of senior officials in the Ethiopian government came from Tigre or from the central Amhara provinces: Begemder, Gojjam, and Wollo. During the reign of Menelik II, the representation of these areas in the central government fell sharply.

The northern Amhara regions were severely disadvantaged during Haile Selassie's reign not only by lack of representation at upper levels of government, but as development accelerated after World War II, by lack of a proportionate share of investment and developmental priority. Table [below] gives the number of high-ranking officials (ministers, ministers of state, and vice ministers) in the central government from various regions over a 24-year period.

Shoan dominance of the central government intensified during Haile Selassie's long reign, with Eritreans coming to play a strong secondary role. If data were available on Eritrean participation in other ranks of the civil service and in key technical and professional positions (telecommunications, air transport, teaching, law, and commerce), they would show a higher proportion than Shoans in some fields; the northern Amhara provinces would account for only a minor fraction of such personnel.

Shoa's position can be exaggerated. I stress it here only to dispose of the facile characterization that, in its extreme form, depicts Ethiopia as a conspiracy of the Amhara against all its other inhabitants. The predominance of Shoa has an exact parallel in the preeminence of Paris and the surrounding region in France, of London and the home counties in England, and of Athens in modern Greece. Patterns vary. Rome and Latium dominated Italy for hundreds of years during the Roman republic and empire but have not gained the same position in modern Italy. Prussia, of course, no longer exists.

Ethiopia has survived long periods when power was diffused among regions. Until early modern times, the imperial court moved seasonally from one part of the country to another. But when Menelik II chose Addis Ababa as his capital in 1886, it quickly became the hub around which Ethiopian politics rotated, and the surrounding region, the old kingdom of Shoa, took on a central role in Ethiopian life which it has never lost. Addis Ababa and Shoa do dominate Ethiopia. They are the melting pot of the country's ethnic strains. The revolution has changed nothing in this respect.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Famine Here

If you scan all the news outlets from Ethiopia in the last month, both govenment-owned and private, you would not know that the country is on the brink of famine. The reason is because the government is too busy doing all it can to discourge any talk of the impending famine.

In an article published two days ago, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports on the attempt to hide the famine in this way:
On the 25th anniversary of the famine that killed nearly a million Ethiopians in 1984, any talk of drought and hunger is still a highly sensitive issue in this impoverished country, subject to draconian controls by the government. Two regimes were toppled in the 1970s and 1990s because of discontent over famines, and the current regime is determined to avoid their fate.

Aid agencies that dare to speak out publicly, or even to allow a photo of a malnourished child at a feeding centre, can be punished or expelled from the country. Visas or work permits are often denied, projects can be delayed, and import approvals for vital equipment can be buried. Most relief agencies are prohibited from allowing visits by journalists or foreigners, except under strict government control.
An article by René Lefort in March of this year titled "Ethiopia's famine: deny and delay" correctly pointed out the government's approach to handling news of the drought that has gripped the nation since 2007. But the regime was quick to lambast Mr. Lefort's article as "full of exaggerations and in some cases downright inventions." I am pretty sure they will come after Geoffrey York, the reporter for the Globe and Mail article, with the same gusto!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Aradaw $hawel

"We are slaves. I can't see how we can reconcile if the guy in power can't reconcile." Hailu $hawel, July 2007

"This time we really negotiated hard, we really came to an understanding, we've even come to a trust, that is a big jump, I believe that is a change from 2005." Hailu $hawel, October 2009